This week, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I can't answer these questions for you, because your answers will be unique to you. How well do you know your town or city? Sure, you know where the supermarket, coffee shop, gym and book shop are; but what about emergency exits and supply points?
Every community has some sort of natural disaster it must be wary of. The threat could be bushfire, flood, tsunami, or even pyroclastic flow from a nearby volcano. If an evacuation order were issued where you live, how long would it take you to get to safety? Does your town have an evacuation point and do you know how to get there? Would following the major arterial roads be a good idea, or would those roads quickly become gridlocked by other fleeing citizens? Do you have an alternate route planned?
Do you have a Bug Out Bag (a bag containing enough clothing and other personal supplies to get you through 3 days)? You should also include a First-Aid kit, a torch, a pocket sized radio, spare batteries, and a book. Do you take any prescription medications? If so, you must keep a grab-bag of your essential medications with your Bug Out Bag. Is your Bug Out Bag kept in an area of your home that you can quickly get to, or is it buried at the back of your wardrobe, underneath all your old ski gear? Remember, in an evacuation, seconds count.
Not only do you need a Bug Out Bag, so does everyone else in your home. Your spouse/partner should be able to pack their own bag, but you'll have to pack for your kids. You don't want to get to the evacuation point and find their bags are full toys and comics.
What about food and water? Do you have a milk crate or two of non-perishable food items stored next to your Bug Out Bag? What about water? You'll need enough for drinking and cooking (if your non-perishable food is dehydrated). You should take enough food and water to get you through 72 hours, maybe longer (hopefully the evacuation will only be for 24 hours). Again, you'll need to increase that amount to accommodate everyone in your group. If you have to evacuate, it's better to rely on your own resourcefulness, instead of hoping someone else will care for you.
Do you have pets? What is your plan if you have to evacuate? Will you take them with you, or leave them behind? If you are going to take them with you; you must take food and other supplies for them too.
The food and water reserves will need to be rotated on a regular basis to make sure it doesn't go out of date so try and buy food that you would normally eat anyway, that way rotating food stock will not cause you any inconvenience.
Hopefully I have given you something to think about. It is likely the emergency services in your local area will have a website where they will post advice relating to current issues in your area. It is likely they will provide you with a comprehensive list of items you should pack.
Not only is Mother Nature beautiful, she can be harsh and unforgiving. Before you venture out of the house for a day in the countryside or a day at the beach; please check the weather forecast before leaving the house. If high temperatures or storms are predicted for your area, please modify your plans accordingly.
Weather extremes don't necessarily mean you have to cancel your entire day, merely adjust your day to suit the conditions. If it's going to be hot, wear a hat and sunscreen and take 3-4 litres of water per person. Stay well hydrated; actually drink the water you brought with you. If you have a headache, feel like you've been run over by a truck and your urine is dark in colour, you are severely dehydrated. Get out of the sun and start drinking water. Stay out of the sun as much as possible and watch out for your mates. In hot conditions, heat stress and sun stroke hit people very quickly.
Pay attention to bush fire warnings. If the current risk level in your area is SEVERE, EXTREME or CATESTROPHIC; don't go on a long hike into the bush to your favourite picnic area. If a fire does break out, you don't want several miles of bush between yourself and safety. Find some other activity to do for the day, or a different location to have your picnic. The Rural Fire Brigade has better things to do with their time than risk their lives searching for people who willingly wander into the lion's den.
People no longer show respect for the beach and the ocean. When I was a child, people would watch the water for signs of a rip or other adverse conditions before getting in for a swim. Nowadays, they jump in without a care in the world, believing it to be a well maintained ride at a water-themed tourist attraction. It's not. If you don't have enough experience to read the conditions, ask the lifeguard on duty. They'd rather answer questions than drag bodies out of the water. One last thing about the beach; please swim between the flags. The lifeguards know that section of beach is safe for swimming. Swimming at an unpatrolled beach is dangerous. If you get in trouble out there, you are on your own.
If it looks like storms (with strong winds, hail or lightning), make sure you don't venture too far from the house. Or better still, stay home. Lightning strikes and flash flooding are guaranteed to ruin anybody's picnic.
Summer's already here, so are the storms and the threat of bushfire. Play safe, look out for your mates and don't become a statistic.
If you own a car, I can't stress the importance of carrying a map in your car's glove-box. GPS and other satellite navigation technology are great, but they aren't infallible. Glitches in the software and geographical errors in the program can lead you many miles off course if you aren't paying attention.
Your GPS should never replace common sense. If the GPS tells you to continue driving straight ahead, but the road has ended and all you can see in front of you is a horse paddock, you should probably turn around and look for another route to your destination. I can guarantee that neither the farmer nor the horses will appreciate your attempts at off-roading.
In your glove-box you should carry at least two maps. The first is a detailed map of your district. Despite living in the area, nobody knows every road in their region. The second map is a map of your state. If you're game, I'd also recommend carrying a map of your country. You probably won't use the last two very often, but if you have room to spare in your glove-box, why not carry them?
Once you have your maps, take the time to familiarise yourself with them. Make sure you know how to read them and estimate distances on them. I know having to read a map is time consuming and challenging for some people, but remember, maps never run out of battery or need software updates.